I am delighted to welcome Jeff Lee to my blog today! I first encountered Mr. Lee’s fresh and laugh-out-loud-funny brand of satire during the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Competition, and I’m so glad I did! The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour remains one of my favorite books of all time, blending a cast of larger-than-life characters with improbable adventures, humor-a-plenty, and a dash of heart.
Jeff’s debut was also my introduction to Moe “Fish” Fishbein and his posse of unlikely bounty hunters/repo men. Fish being Fish, apparently he wasn’t content to sit on the sidelines. Jeff (wisely) followed his muse and followed up with Hair of the Dog, aptly described as THE MALTESE FALCON meets GET SHORTY. ‘With his armload of tattoos, Buddha-licious grin and old school Harley chopper, Fish is the go-to guy for showbiz A-listers with runaway spouses and agents whose celebrity clients have jumped bail.’
In Chump Change, the third installment of the series and described by yours truly as Carl Hiaasen meets ‘Get Shorty’ with a body count, Fish, Kenny, and Einstein are back at doing what they do best.
You gotta love this town.
You think it’s easy being the Bounty Hunter and Repo Guy to the Stars? Just ask “Fish” Fishbein. If he isn’t trying to corral a heavily lubricated ex-rocker, he’s flying down the freeway in a repoed Wiener Mobile, chased by the pistol-packing deadbeat who owns it.
A bail bondsman hires him to track down a crew of unwise guys who blew off their court date to snatch L.A.’s monthly parking meter take — 300 grand in quarters. Then they start dropping like flies. And Fish has to catch the killer.
Maybe it’s the city’s armed and dangerous Parking Meter Czar. Or his brother-in-law, a corrupt televangelist who needs some serious coin to bankroll his foray into Bible-based porn. Or the Rev’s wife and co-minister, who’s bat-shit crazy about toddler beauty pageants. Or, it just might be the defrocked talent agent who’s dying to make Fish a reality TV star.
With more than seven tons of quarters at stake, bodies are dropping faster than turn-downs on America’s Got Talent. And if Fish and his hog-riding buds, Kenny and Einstein, don’t nab the killer in a hurry, they could get eliminated themselves.
Chump Change is author Jeff Lee’s third book in his Fish Fishbein series, following The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour and Hair of the Dog. If you enjoy the whacko characters, situations and fast pace that Janet Evanovich, Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard bring to the party, check out all of Fish’s big adventures.
Here’s my review:
I’ve been a Jeff Lee fan ever since Vonda Mae Ables set off on a girls’ road trip with her two best gal pals and one good-for-nothing boyfriend’s dead carcass stashed in the RV’s freezer. The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour introduced us to Moe Fishbein and his fellow bounty hunters/repo men. These unforgettable side characters got some much-deserved page time in Hair of the Dog.
Now they’re back on the hunt for some petty-yet-deadly criminals in Chump Change. The perps steal an armored car full of parking meter change, missing a court date in the process. Enter Fish, Kenny, and Einstein. What starts out as a simple middle of the night bad guy grab turns into Barnum and Bailey’s when scheister lawyer-turned wannabe reality show producer ‘Arnie babe’ turns up with a camera crew. Not that Moe isn’t Hollywood material, but this is a serious liability to the element of surprise.
And the dead body on the back porch isn’t helping either.
Since their quarry keep turning up dead, Fish, his crew, and Detective Carlos Santana (LOL) follow the trail back to LA’s crooked Parking Czar, a sleazy televangelist with a penchant for porn, and the local mob scene. Think Carl Hiaasen meets ‘Get Shorty’ with a body count, and you’ve got one helluva story. Definitely recommend!
And now for the good part – a chat with one of my favorite cyberpals, ABNA alum and wonderful writer, Jeff Lee.
Moe, Kenny, and Einstein are quite the trio, and as near as I can tell, the only honest and ethical dudes in your La-La land fictionverse. Who or what inspired these characters (confession – I’ve been wanting to ask for years if The Three Stooges played a part)?
Funny you should ask about Fish, Kenny and Einstein. People who’ve known me for a long time swear that those characters represent different parts of what makes me, me. You’ve got three bright guys (OK, the jury’s still out on the contents of Kenny’s cranium) who, while they may not have much respect for a lot of the system, they try to get by the best they can without stapling, folding or mutilating any major statutes. All this, while taking as much time as possible for a little V-twin therapy and a healthy chortle from time to time.
Gotcha! They do say that every character represents some aspect of the author’s psyche, so I’m convinced yours is a quite a wonderland! Speaking of La-La Land, the Los Angeles setting is a vibrant and vital part of your series – practically another character in it’s own right, from glitz and glamour to seedy underbelly. How much of this imagined L.A. was inspired by the real city?
I spent my whole career as an advertising copywriter and creative director – almost forty years – in L.A. And look, every city is a melting pot, right? They all have their diverse neighborhoods; their high rent districts; their soft white underbellies. But the City of the Angels comes factory-equipped with a level of gonzo-ness you just won’t find anywhere else. Maybe it’s the Kardashians and all the red carpet interviews. Maybe it’s the fat and gluten-free bottled water. If you keep your eyes and ears open, there’s an inexhaustible wealth of sights, sounds, people and places just begging to be satirized – or at least chuckled at. That’s why most of my L.A. locations are real, like the deli full of standup comics and gigantic, full-color “Jewish Porn” photos of cold cuts on rye; or the Malibu seafood restaurant with the Harley-eating potholes in the parking lot and menu selections right out of “The Rockford Files”. You gotta love this town.
Indeed, and you’re totally giving me the itch to visit L.A. again. I adore so much about your stories, but I think the over-the-top side characters and antagonists are my favorites. From sleazy lawyer-turned-reality-show-producer ‘Arnie Babe’ to Televangelist and Bible-based porn broker Reverend Dr. George Stonewall Rogers to his wife, stage mom from hell Janelle Rogers, you create some of the most memorable monuments to human vice. How do you come up with these characters and their quirks?
All I can say is I like my villains to be memorable. And the best way to do that is to make them just ever so slightly ridiculous. Look at the news — or anything on the History Channel pertaining to Hitler, the Third Reich or even Bernie Madoff. Our villains all tend to be serious guys who demanded to be taken seriously. (OK, maybe with the possible exception of Mussolini and Hermann Goering – they were pretty damn comical to watch.) I mean, when was the last time you heard a joke begin with the words, “A priest, a rabbi and Michael Corleone walk into a bar…”? And since all villains need to have a fatal flaw, I like to give them something the reader can recall in the middle of an afternoon meeting and bust a gut laughing.
I’d say you’ve exceeded those expectations, my friend! Care to drop a few hints about what’s up next for Fish and the boys, pretty please?
Writing Chump Change, I had such a good time with reality TV I’m thinking seriously about taking another shot at it. But we’re still in the very early stages here.
Ooooh, I would LOVE to read it! How have you found Indie publishing?
Interesting question. I’ve both worked with a publisher and as an independent (make that self-published) writer. The people at the publisher were nice, warm, very polite and supportive. But since they were a small publisher, there was no budget or resources to publicize or market my writings. (I understand that with major publishers, it’s the same story.) So, I was the one who had to get it done – and I did it exceptionally badly.
As an indie writer, I still have to find an audience for my work, as well as pay for designers and take care of the actual publishing part myself. But I love the independence, the feeling that I, alone, am responsible for my voice as a writer.
It’s definitely a process, and I can relate to muddling through the murky waters of marketing and promo. As for being responsible for your voice, you’ve got a lot to be proud of there. Your writer’s voice really shines! Any other projects on the horizon? I’m always looking for great new reads!
I mentioned before that I had been with a small independent publisher. Unfortunately, they decided go out of business a couple of weeks after publishing one of my other books. Which meant everything I had written for them was now out of print and unavailable on Amazon, or any other book selling site. We’re talking two other titles: Hair of the Dog, which was another very funny Fish Fishbein novel. And Bird Boy, a Stephen King-like cautionary tale about extreme teenage bullying and where it could lead.
My next step will be to self-publish both books, once I get Chump Change going.
I do hope you can get those titles back out soon. I loved Hair of the Dog! Random question just for fun – dark chocolate or milk?
Both. If you’re talking shaving a little over a slice of homemade cheesecake, it’s gotta be dark.
But then again, there are times when only a Kit Kat will fill the bill.
Hmm, dark chocolate and Kit Kats – you’re speaking my language. Top three absolute favorite books?
One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard
Anything written by William Goldman
Excellent choices! I adore William Goldman, too, and do hope he gets around to The Princess Bride sequel 🙂
Thank you so much for the wonderful interview! To learn more about Jeff, please visit his website. You can also connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. Chump Change is available now Amazon, along with The Ladies Temperance Club Farewell Tour.